Dezeen Magazine

big beauty hackney travertine table in shop retail space

Nina+Co uses salvaged materials and biotextiles for Big Beauty's first store

Design studio Nina+Co has used materials informed by the ingredients used in natural skincare products for Big Beauty's first store in Hackney, London.

For its first retail space, Big Beauty founder Lisa Targett Bolding wanted to create a space that was an extension of the brand's ethos. She worked closely with Nina+Co, which chose to incorporate waste materials and biomaterials like mycelium into the design.

According to Nina+Co founder Nina Woodcroft, every material choice was aimed at minimising waste or reviving waste products.

table and two armchairs in modern retails space big beauty
The Big Beauty shop was designed by Nina+Co

"Lisa was determined to push the boundaries of material use and circularity and is willing to take risks, which is necessary when experimenting with materials and processes that are new," she told Dezeen.

"There are many great materials and solutions that we desperately need to become mainstream, but making them commercially viable can be a slow and long-winded process," she continued.

"The goal at Nina+Co is to bridge this gap, to show how beautiful and useful these materials and processes can be, and to work on changing attitudes towards waste and considering end-of-use."

display shelf of salvaged steel, expanded cork and stone off-cuts
The project features salvaged and biomaterials

Raw stone edges, metal patination, and earthy tones were blended with soft, oversized, rounded forms to create a calming effect throughout the space where, besides the retail area, there is a private treatment room for massages and facials.

The main space was designed to be flexible and host events, with seating arranged around a large travertine stone table, which was sourced 50 per cent from salvage and 50 per cent from offcuts.

edge of travertine stone table left raw
Salvaged travertine stone was used for the central table with only minimal shaping to some edges

The travertine used for the central table was kept in the large slabs in which it was found, with only minimal shaping to some edges, in a bid to reduce wastage and retain integrity for future applications.

As well as the reclaimed natural stone, Nina+Co used expanded cork blocks that were shaped into storage units and salvaged steel, which has been re-worked into shelving.

shop display with expanded cork storage, mycelium panels and furniture
Expanded cork blocks are used to create storage units

Many of the materials chosen were informed by the minerals and ingredients used in natural skincare such as clay, seaweed and mushroom extracts.

Mycelium was grown to form plinths and legs using the reishi species. Reishi mushroom and clay were also used to pigment curtains of a seaweed biotextile, which have tiny trapped air bubbles to look like sea foam or bath bubbles.

The seaweed biotextile, along with hemp fabric, was hung as a backdrop for the window display that shades the interior.

panles of hemp and mycelium
Seaweed biotextile panels feature tiny trapped air bubbles

When asked about the challenges of working with mycelium, Woodcroft said "every project has its hiccups. Mycelium needs precise conditions to grow and contamination is tricky to avoid without serious lab facilities."

"We inoculate organic waste with mushroom spores then the fungus digests the substrate and binds together with tiny hyphae threads into a homogenous form within a mould; when gently dried, the mycelium becomes inert and we are left with strong, organic pieces of furniture that are ultimately compostable," she explained.

"There's so much more to explore with mycelium and I intend to."

bed in a treatment room made from glass bricks
A glass block wall encloses a private treatment room.

Also as part of the renovation, the studio removed the existing timber floor and underlay, which were both sold locally with proceeds going to charity.

The grey concrete beneath was then stained to a warmer brown using iron sulphate, a common grass fertiliser. Cork tiles with a natural hard wax finish were used for the kitchen and toilet. The walls and ceiling were coated with a limewash paint made from clay, minerals and natural pigments.

Mycelium and Reishi mushroom species were used to create plinths and legs for the displays
Mycelium and Reishi mushroom species were used to create plinths and legs for the displays

According to Woodcroft, each area of the shop tells a story of material exploration and experimentation.

The space offers – as the brand puts it – "a sense of provenance, connection and reverence" for the natural components of the skincare products on the shelves.

Big Beauty founder Lisa Targett Bolding told Dezeen "Nina cares deeply about sustainability, and that passion shows in every inch of the store. We haven't had a person walk in without commenting on the energy of the space – only to deepen their obsession once they hear the story behind each piece, each fabricator and each material."

"Our aim is to reduce waste in the beauty industry – and to do that, to change consumer behaviour, you need to inspire people not nag them. That is what this space (and Nina) has achieved. We are making sustainability sexy and everyone feels great about themselves, and about shopping with a clear conscience once they immerse themselves in this space," she continued.

Exterior of big. Beauty in Hackney, London
Big Beauty's windows feature panels of mycelium biotextile

Nina+Co has previous experience working with ancient and pioneering materials like mushroom mycelium, algae and bioplastics. The design studio worked on the fit-out of Silo, a zero-waste restaurant in the London suburb of Hackney Wick, and more recently the MONC eyewear store also in the British capital.

The photography is by Anna Batchelor

More images

Displays made from salvaged materials
Displays made from salvaged materials
Displays made from salvaged materials
Displays made from salvaged materials
Displays made from salvaged materials
Displays made from salvaged materials
Bed in treatment room made of glass bricks
Expanded cork and mycelium biotextile
Salvaged stone display
Mycelium and reishi mushroom used for plinths